Advent signs of the Kingdom
Advent is a penitential season - we wear purple vestments, and the Gloria is omitted from Mass. Our churches are more stark and simple. We are encouraged to do penance, to go to confession, to prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but also - if not more so - at the end of our lives and at the End of Time. At yet it is not Lent, we still say the Alleluia, and our penance and preparation is hopeful, expectant. It is more prayerful. The Kingdom of God is near.
In a sense, we ought not to be too upset about snowmen on Royal Mail stamps, Christmas parties and carol services, and All I want for Christmas playing in shopping centres from the first day of December. Somewhere is all of it is a deep yearning in people for meaning and connection, a desire for joy and relationship - ultimately, a desire for God. And if there is any meaning in in Our Lord’s instruction to stay awake, to be alert, that meaning comes from the promise that the Kingdom of God is near.
We shouldn’t interpret our Lord’s command to be alert, stay awake, as awful warnings. We shouldn’t lapse into fear and foreboding. Instead, we should look for the signs that God’s kingdom is very near, signs of promise and hope, signs of new life in the midst of our troubled world. Advent is a time when we should look for such signs, cultivate and nurture the signs we discover, and be ourselves signs of the coming of God’s kingdom to the world around us, and therefore signs of hope.
And we can see such signs in the joy and pleasure of friends and family gathered together. In the joy and pleasure of Christmas parties. In the presents we might give, in the good works we can do in our city and our parish for the homeless or the lonely or those in hospital. We can see such signs in Advent candles and calendars, and Christmas cards, and Christmas lights, and the awful music, symbolising the hope and love of the season.
Stay awake! Be alert! In all of our preparations, our shopping, cooking, decorating, the hustle and bustle of the season, how are we paying attention to the nearness of God’s kingdom in ourselves, in our souls? It’s easy to allow the season and our day-to-day responsibilities of work and family to fill up our lives so the deep yearnings of our hearts, the desires of our souls to welcome Christ’s coming are left unmet, unnoticed. Be alert, stay awake! As people of hope, who are prepared to meet the Son of Man when he comes, we must nurture those shoots, that new growth, so that the Kingdom of God and the coming of his Son may blossom forth in our hearts; and this season of Advent might be a season of hope and love and transformation for all of us.
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